Reporters on the Job

I Speak Your Language: Many Chinese may be trying to learn English, says Monitor staff writer Robert Marquand, but he doesn't hear the language used much in Beijing outside of high-end shops and hotels. So it was a surprise to walk into the private Jie Jang arts center and find children who barely reach his knees offering to chat in Bob's native tongue (see story).

"All these kids run up to you and start talking to you in English," Bob says, who has put in many hours trying to learn more about these children's native language. "And they're five."

The conversation didn't get too complicated, with 'What's your favorite subject?' and 'How much do you study English?' dominating the exchanges. Still, Bob says, "The kids whom I met had a kind of natural facility. It particularly surprised my intepreter."

It's All in the Timing: The Monitor's Scott Peterson (see story) is learning how Iraqi hoteliers raise the rent even after making ironclad promises of a long-term deal.

In January, spurred by a 60 percent rise in rent, the Monitor moved its Baghdad bureau from a hotel Scott first stayed at in September 2002.

After moving to a new pad across the street - and saving a bundle of cash per year - Baghdad correspondents have been upgrading with a Persian carpet (fake?), leather couch, lounge chairs, and desks and kitchen counters that Scott had custom built. Paintings, interspersed with maps of Baghdad and Iraq, decorate the walls,.

But then the boom fell. "Just when we thought we had it together, they raised the rent," says Scott. "Dan [Murphy] had just rotated out of Baghdad, and I was still embedded with the Marines in Fallujah, when they told the translator the bad news: 25 percent more, please."

- Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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